Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander

2490849A copy of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them resides in almost every wizarding household in the country. Now Muggles too have the chance to discover where the Quintaped lives, what the Puffskein eats and why it is best not to leave milk out for a Knarl. (from Goodreads)

It was a long time since I last read this, but my perception of it didn’t change much after this last re-reading, probably because it’s pretty straightforward (I mean, what enlightening difference could I note in an encyclopedia-like book?) and because I read this book like a gazillion times before. There was even a time when I tried to draw these beasts, following the descriptions given. Anyway…
I mostly wanted to re-read it before watching the movie, not because I wanted to refresh the story (there’s no story: like I said, it’s a textbook), but because I wanted to refresh the descriptions of theses beasts and spotted them before someone in the movie had to explain it to me (or to a clueless character). It worked, kind of… Those things in the movie were a lot more shinier and flamboyant that I could ever imagine, but ok…

Of all the satellite books written about the wizarding world, this has always been my favorite, mostly because all those little handwritten notes in the margins (after all, this book is a copy of the original own by Harry Potter himself) and because it allows to imagine all these fantastic creatures and gives us the hope that dodos aren’t actually extinct, which is such a relief.

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Hamlet / Macbeth, by William Shakespeare

hamlet-macbeth-william-shakespeare-clarin-d_nq_np_22164-mla20225340886_012015-fConfronted with evidence that his uncle murdered his father, and with his mother’s infidelity, Hamlet must find a means of reconciling his longing for oblivion with his duty as avenger. (from Goodreads)

Promised a golden future as ruler of Scotland by three sinister witches, Macbeth murders the king to ensure his ambitions come true. But he soon learns the meaning of terror – killing once, he must kill again and again, and the dead return to haunt him. (from Goodreads)

Ahh, there’s nothing like a classic shakespearean tragedy for a good dose of revenge and bloodshed.
I had to read Hamlet for a costume project for college, and well, Macbeth came along in the same book.
I’m not a fan of reading plays, but I didn’t dread doing it this time, mostly because I have read it before a long long time ago, so I wanted to set my memory right, since all I could remember was The Simpsons’ adaptation of it.

Persuasion, by Jane Austen

30653460Written at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Persuasion is a tale of love, heartache and the determination of one woman as she strives to reignite a lost love. Anne Elliot is persuaded by her friends and family to reject a marriage proposal from Captain Wentworth because he lacks in fortune and rank. More than seven years later, when he returns home from the Navy, Anne realises she still has strong feelings for him, but Wentworth only appears to have eyes for a friend of Anne’s. Moving, tender, but intrinsically ‘Austen’ in style, with its satirical portrayal of the vanity of society in eighteenth-century England, Persuasion celebrates enduring love and hope. (from Goodreads)

This was my second reading of this novel, first time in English. It was awhile since I last read it, and my memories of it were built mostly from glimpses of the different movies and tv adaptations. It was also my first time ever reading Austen in her own words and not mediated by a translator, so it actually felt almost like reading it for the first time ever.
I must admit that I always neglected Anne Elliot as a very secondary character in the myriad of Austen’s heroines, and oh how I regret this. I think, as it happens to me often, that sometimes I read books when it’s not the right time for me, so then they leave an odd impression in my memory. Knowing this about myself, I try to re-read them later, and it usually works great for the book. Apparently this time I was fully ready to love and understand Anne. Well, we are now the same age! So I guess that explains it all.

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen

6374276Beautiful, flirtatious, and recently widowed, Lady Susan Vernon seeks an advantageous second marriage for herself, while attempting to push her daughter into a dismal match (from Goodreads)

In my opinion, this is the funniest book by Austen, ever. That should be enough to go run, find a copy and read ASAP.
It’s a short epistolary novel (and you know how much I love this things). The exchange of letters is delightful to read, as one can see the two faced personality of Susan, so sweet and caring towards those she wants to impress, and completely cynical and scheming in her private correspondence with her best friend.
It was adapted to a movie very recently, for the first time, with the title Love & friendship (which is, BTW, another epistolary novel by Austen, but that has nothing to do with this story). I highly recommend reading the book first, which will make everything so much enjoyable because so many of the dialogues were copied word by word from the letters (ahh, so satisfying!). In any case, it’s a great movie in its own.

The Perfume of the Lady in Black, by Gastón Leroux

32423378In The Perfume of the Lady in Black, Joseph Rouletabille, the young journalist turned detective, is once more pitted against his arch-enemy Frédéric Larsan. The mysterious crime committed in the Square Tower challenges even Rouletabille’s powers of logic and deduction. But this is also a novel which – through its implicit accommodation of recent developments in the new science of psychoanalysis, particularly Freud’s notion of the Oedipus complex – was even further ahead of its time than The Mystery of the Yellow Room (from Goodreads)

Second book about Rouletabille’s adventures. The charactars are pretty much the same that in the previous book (with few newcomers) but everyone is in an altered state of nervousness and panic. The evil they thought they’ve left behind, is back, and more terrifying than ever.

Something that I didn’t mention in the previous post is that, at the end of The yellow room, there was a HUGE spoiler about Rouletabille’s past, written ON A FOOT NOTE that it even said “as it’s reveald in The perfume…“. WHAT?!?! I was INFURIATED. I remember that I was just leaving a train (commuting, my favorite time to read) while I was a reading it and I gasped quite loudly in indignation. Up to this day I don’t know if it was an editor or translator’s note or it was meant to be there by the author. But I assure you, there was nothing on that book that could make me foresee that piece of information that, luckily, is given quite early in this second book.

Let’s get back on track.

That particular discovery we make about Rouletabille’s past life is the root of his strangeness throughout the entire book. He’s not the same and it shows. I must say, I missed the old Rouletabille, but, luckily for us and the rest of the characters, he gets his mind to work correctly and solves the mistery.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the previous one. Instead of having a crime and find our way to the criminal, in this novel we have the criminal but there’s no crime yet, so everyone is working towards preventing it. That’s not so fun. Like I said, all the characters are pretty nervous and they got on my nerves as well. Is a constant state of unstediness.

After all this DRAMA, I can’t help but wonder what could happen to Rouletabille in his next adventure?

The mystery of the Yellow Room, by Gastón Leroux

13064611The young lady had just retired to her room when sounds of a struggle ensue, and cries of “Murder!” and revolver shots ring out. When her locked door is finally broken down by her father and a servant, they find the woman on the floor, badly hurt and bleeding. No one else is in the room. There is no other exit except through a barred window. How did the attacker escape?  (from Goodreads)

When I bought this book I thought it would be more dark and gritty, but it wasn’t like that at all, it was pretty entertaining and quite funny at times, despite the tragic events that the characters were living.

The main characters are:

  • Joseph Rouletabille – the young journalist and amateur detective, protagonist

  • Jean Sainclair – Rouletabille’s friend and lawyer, the narrator

  • Frédéric Larsan – the police detective

  • Professor Stangerson – a scientist, owner of “Chateau du Glandier”

  • Mlle. Mathilde Stangerson – his daughter, the victim

  • Robert Darzac – Mathilde’s fiancé

Robert Darzac ends up being the main suspect, according to Larsan’s reasonings, but Rouletabille is not convinced and believes in his innocence. He follows a logic that escapes completely our understanding and it’s not until the very end when the name of the attacker is revealed, and it’s totally unexpected!

This book is the first in a series, and I have already read the second! Rouletabille is not like any other detective I’ve read before, and it’s a nice change.

Another nice thing about my edition is that it has images, and I love when that happens!

The Secret Glory, by Arthur Machen

18515164It is probable that all through those early years Ambrose’s father had been charming his son’s heart, drawing him forth from the gehenna-valley of this life into which he had fallen, as one draws forth a beast that has fallen into some deep and dreadful place. Various are the methods recommended. There is the way of what is called moral teaching, the way of physiology and the way of a masterly silence; but Mr. Meyrick’s was the strange way of incantation. He had, in a certain manner, drawn the boy aside from that evil traffic of the valley, from the stench of the turmoil, from the blows and the black lechery, from the ugly fight in the poisonous smoke, from all the amazing and hideous folly that practical men call life, and had set him in that endless procession that forever and forever sings its litanies in the mountains, going from height to height on its great quest. Ambrose’s soul had been caught in the sweet thickets of the woods; it had been bathed in the pure water of blessed fountains; it had knelt before the altars of the old saints, till all the earth was become a sanctuary, all life was a rite and ceremony, the end of which was the attainment of the mystic sanctity — the achieving of the Graal. For this — for what else? — were all things made. It was this that the little bird sang of in the bush, piping a few feeble, plaintive notes of dusky evenings, as if his tiny heart were sad that it could utter nothing better than such sorry praises. This also celebrated the awe of the white morning on the hills, the breath of the woods at dawn. This was figured in the red ceremony of sunset, when flames shone over the dome of the great mountain, and roses blossomed in the far plains of the sky. This was the secret of the dark places in the heart of the woods. This the mystery of the sunlight on the height; and every little flower, every delicate fern, and every reed and rush was entrusted with the hidden declaration of this sacrament. For this end, final and perfect rites had been given to men to execute; and these were all the arts, all the far-lifted splendor of the great cathedral; all rich carven work and all glowing colors; all magical utterance of word and tones: all these things were the witnesses that consented in the One Offering, in the high service of the Graal. (from Goodreads)

This book was quite a trippy reading. To be honest, I bought this book because it had a pretty cover (Edward Burne-Jones’ The beguiling of Merlin) and because the seller said “It’s the last remaining”.

I think the book could be easily separated in two parts: those chapters that were centered on Ambrose’s school years, dedicated to “mundane” subjects, and those where everything gets a lot more like what I copied from Goodreads above. The mundane chapters were a cynical and sarcastic critique of the British public school and academic system, which was very fun to read. The spiritual chapters were beautiful to read, the images described are literally out of this world, but I often felt that I wasn’t getting it. I’m not versed in Celtic anything, so it was mostly out of my league and I just sat and enjoyed the nice writing. There was also a strong critique of the Anglican church, made from the standpoint of the Roman church and the traditional celtic rites.

I believe this is the kind of book that is meant to be read more than once, twice or three times, and that each time is a whole different experience. I’m looking forward to read it again 🙂